📷 : Richard Davenport
Recently, Bree Smith appeared at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester in their production of West Side Story and is currently in rehearsals for Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita, opening on 2nd August at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. In her final year of training, Bree joined the workshop of Eugenius! at the Palladium before playing Henrietta in Scrooge the Musical and then making her West End debut in The Book of Mormon. Catching up with Bree, we find out about performing in Scrooge, making her West End debut and playing the role of Rosalia in West Side Story.
How was your time in the recent production of West Side Story in Manchester?
It was wonderful! I had such an amazing three months. It was lovely to be back up North which is where I grew up. The production was so unique to any West Side Story before as they had the rights to change the choreography and I loved it. I couldn’t have asked for a better company and stage management team. We were looked after very well.
How did you find performing as Rosalia and rehearsing as cover Anita?
I really enjoyed rediscovering Rosalia. Our director Sarah Frankcom worked with us one-on-one to create each character true to how we want them portrayed instead of being a carbon copy of previous productions. It was great to create an in-depth backstory for Rosalia which helped me greatly on stage. Even if the audience didn’t know it helps you understand the character better.
As for Anita, what a feisty character to cover. The role of Anita was challenging but rewarding. The character goes through so many emotional stages within the musical and each relationship with every character varies dramatically. I found it hard to really home in on the Puerto Rican accent but after a few accent lessons and lots of trial and errors, I grasped the accent.
📷 : Richard Davenport
What’s it like working at Royal Exchange?
The Royal Exchange Theatre is just beautiful. Just walking into rehearsals every day through the hall made me smile with great joy. It is a wonderful venue and I had never played anything in the round before so that came with its challenges however I would love to play in the round again. It’s so different to a premium arch stage as in the round the audience are so close to you and you can be seen from literally every angle. This was a great learning experience as an actor to assure all the audience were included all the time.
You appeared in The Book of Mormon, what was this like?
This was my first West End show and I had a blast. It is such a comedic show and breaks all the boundaries of a typical musical. The cast were stellar and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
📷 : Persson Photography
How long did you appear at The Prince of Wales Theatre?
I did a year in The Book Of Mormon. It was a hard decision to leave after a year and not renew my contract but it was the best decision as I am early on in my career and I want to experience many musicals/plays and TV roles. To settle into a role so early on would not have been productive for me…
What was it like making your West End debut?
Incredible! Everything I’ve dreamed of for years! Just to walk through Piccadilly Circus every day for work and think this is what I love doing just made me smile and realise how far I’ve come.
Can you say about playing Henrietta in Scrooge the Musical at Leicester Curve?
Henrietta was originally cast for a male to play in all other Scrooge productions however this production was different. There was no need to have a male actor playing this role. I was so blessed to work at Leicester Curve theatre over Christmas, it is just a beautiful theatre. And strives on the fact it’s almost an inside out theatre in the way that the audience see you going through the door to backstage and after the performance, the theatre walls are lifted so the audience can see into backstage. It was great playing this role alongside my stage partner Holly. We got to wear big posh frocks and corsets and strut around the stage, who could ask for more!
📷 : Pamela Raith
Can you remember how you felt when booking your first job after graduating from Arts Educational Schools?
I was walking through the park and my agent rang me and told me and I just stopped in my tracks, I couldn’t move I was so happy! Then my friend walked past me and I just couldn’t contain my excitement so I told him literally two minutes after coming off the phone to my agent. I was just so blessed to have my first job and I was covering a lead role and it was a tour.
How much did you enjoy your time in Eugenius! at the Palladium?
I did the workshop of Eugenius! at the Palladium whilst still in third year. This was a great experience working with professional actors whilst still in training and seeing how the industry works before stepping into it.
When and why did you decide on a career in theatre?
Originally I played a lot of sport and wanted to become a professional tennis player. Alongside tennis training, I also did church pantomimes and I just fell in love with performing. So at the age of ten, I started to go to a Saturday drama club. Then at sixteen after I finished my GCSEs I started taking classes in ballet, tap and modern as I knew I wanted to further my training and I was behind for someone my age that had been dancing for years. I soon caught up after having two years of intense classes and private sessions and I decided to audition for drama schools in London and was so blessed to have been accepted to ArtsEd.
Are there any theatre shows you would like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
Yes, I’m always going to watch shows. There are so many I haven’t got round to watch. I would love to watch Come From Away, 9 to 5, Sweat and Jesus Christ Superstar.
📷 : Eliza Wilmot
You performed at The Show Goes On (After Hours West End) last year, can you say more about this?
Yes, I was approached to perform at the cabaret night which was indeed the next building across from The Prince of Wales theatre which was ideal for when I finished work. It was a wonderful evening filled with a bunch of incredible West End performers. We each did a thirty-minute set with an eight-piece band. In the soundcheck that afternoon I was just overwhelmed with the sound that the band made for each of my songs. It was wonderful and I could really work with them in terms of tempo, sound to each instrument etc which usually isn’t a luxury.
Do you have any more events like this planned?
I don’t currently but I perform at Kinky Kabaret ever so often at Freedom Bar which is a similar late-night cabaret evening.
Have you got any roles coming up that you can talk about?
Yes, I am currently in rehearsals for Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. I’m so excited to start this production. The audience will not know what’s hit them. It’s not like any Evita productions you have ever seen. I’m so blessed to be a part of this amazing production. With a stellar creative team of Jamie Lloyd (Director), Fabian Aloise (Choreographer) and Alan Williams (Musical Director), it’s going to be something special.
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